Collaborative Competition

It seems that this is not an original idea, but I thought I would share my view of the concept of Collaborative Competition here and see how others think about it and use it as well.

In the Army, I can’t think of a better example of Collaborative Competition than the US Special Forces units we deploy. Their full time job is to be the best that they can be at their jobs. They are always working on their battle drills, weapons training, and individual skills (language, Military Occupational Specialty, etc.) regularly to keep their skills sharp. However, it is always their buddies who will call them out on deficiencies as they see them. Their buddies’ criticism will not be taken as a personal attack on their professionalism either. The corrections will be taken in the positive peer pressure manner they are intended, and the individual will work on the deficiency as needed because they have a personal pride in doing their best and never letting the team down. The team is also far more capable than any individual and each member is cross trained on the tasks and skills that some of the others are meant to handle. In other words, the primary skill set for one person is a secondary skill set for another on the team. This cross training also is not thought of as a threat to the individual who has the main task to complete. The redundancy is welcomed as a safety net in case of something goes wrong during a mission. These redundancies allow the team to be very agile on the battle field no matter what happens. The team is greater than any one individual’s skills and each person holds the others accountable to be at their best. It is of a wholly collaborative and competitive environment all at once. This seems like a duality, but nothing could be further from the truth, and it could the same in business and in life.

While most employees fear competition and collaboration because they fear their very jobs are at stake. And this could be very true. If you are concerned about competition at work, then the environment has been built in such a way as to create negative competition. Collaboration with fellow employees or other departments will always be slower in these environments because they will always think that if they allow others to have the credit for good performance then their own performance will not be recognized. I had one employee tell me once, “Don’t help the new guy or else the boss will think that he is as good or better than you – and then you won’t be needed anymore!” What an oppressive and near-sighted way of thinking, right?! However, it is reality in many companies throughout the world and is widely accepted as the “right” way to think.

Consider the following article from the Harvard Business Review:

What were the main ideas? What did the article say about solving problems across disciplines? How can that be applied within your organization? (Notice I did not say: Why can you not apply these ideas within your organization.)

In the movie A Beautiful Mind (loosely based on the life of John Nash), Russell Crowe playing the lead role says that his original idea is that “People should do what is (simultaneously) best for themselves and for all of those around them.” This idea exemplifies the basic rule of collaborative competition that should be followed in business and in life to benefit all organizations.


Ethics, Integrity & Code of Conduct -Defined

People don’t often remember that what’s good for you and what’s good for other people are often the same thing! Ethics cannot be overstated in importance in the business world for a business to last.


I2F code of conductWe easily understand that economics or poor business management can cause a business to fold. Let’s dig deeper and think about some of the past million dollar businesses that have  failed. Why? What causes such a topple of one’s success. It really is one simple word – morals.

We all know right from wrong but whether we choose to follow the right instead of the wrong makes all the difference. A good business has a great, solid foundation of morals, ethics & integrity. Successful and blossoming businesses not only create the Code of Conduct for their business but they wear it, act it and follow it everyday. They set an example for all to follow and will tolerate nothing less. These my friend are sustaining, successful businesses.

Ethics – moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.

Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

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When Is It Tattling and When Is It Just Good Business?

When we are children, many of our peers tell us (and even many of our parents tell us) that if you are telling on your friends, brothers, sisters, etc. you will be labeled a ‘tattletale’. And a tattletale is a bad thing to be because no one will like  you, everyone will think they have to ‘walk on eggshells’ around you, and it will lead to others scrutinizing the things you do more closely.

Even Jesus says in the Bible, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” So when you’re at work (we’ll deal with only at work, but this could apply anywhere), and you see something that you think is wrong, unethical, a bad business practice, or outright illegal…what are you supposed to do?

Here are 4 reasons it falls to you to do something about it:

1) You’re responsible for a poor (or positive) workplace. What you do and accept in your life (and at work) will lead to building your surroundings. My father used to say, “You want to see who you are, look at the people you hang out with.” While that was not always the case in total, each person you hang around with (or work with) is a part of you. At work, this is very true because you are part of a larger team. If you are pulling in one direction, and others are pulling in other directions (or not pulling at all) then your team is very weak. Everyone at work needs to be putting in the work it takes to get things done. If someone is not doing that, their actions should be addressed immediately.

2) Tolerating others’ behavior tacitly says their actions are approved. If you don’t say something to someone about their laziness, rudeness, inappropriate jokes, racism, sexism, or illegal or unethical activities, then you are advocating those activities. At West Point, the Honor Code states that, “A Cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do.” So you don’t work at West Point perhaps, and we are not all bound by the Cadet Honor Code. Sometimes being a ‘boy scout’ or ‘girl scout’ means finishing dead last, and, of course, everyone wants to succeed. I understand. However, as a leader, what message are you sending if you want to win at all costs? There have to be some ethical, legal, and personal boundaries that you will not cross just to win. Winning at all costs always leads to long term failure. Look at Lehman Brothers and the fiasco that occurred for all those people who were suddenly unemployed by a company that had been in existence for so many years. Those people (and an industry filled with people like them) took severely unethical risks and the bubble popped leaving thousands unemployed from just Lehman Brothers alone. The downfall of this goliath business was a series of small improper practices, cheats, uncorrected actions, and unethical deeds that undid the lending industry in 2009 and set off a huge recession world wide. When you see something wrong, don’t dismiss it as just one action that won’t hurt anyone. If you do, your saying it’s allowed and you approve.

3) Peer pressure (Negative and Positive) is contagious. The work environment is truly cutthroat many times, and the idea of telling on a fellow employee sounds like a bad idea. People could tell lies that can be spread about a person and the damage those lies can do to that person’s career could be horrific. However, there are plenty of high-powered, high-stress work environments that thrive on the mutual accountability system in the workplace today. Look at Zappos! In his book, Tony Hsieh (CEO) wrote about a moment when his company was trying to build itself up and create the most customer friendly, customer responsive call center. He and the employees of the company were all on the same mission to create an incredible customer experience. Tony and his friends were out one night at about one o’clock in the morning, and someone had the idea to call up the Zappos call center to order a pizza. What a great test of service… except, Zappos sold only shoes, not pizza. They called anyway, and within minutes the call center operator that night came back with several pizza place suggestions in the area where Tony and his friends could go buy a pizza. Why is this story so amazing? Zappos has gone on to be one of the most incredible success stories in the business world and continues to be just as innovative and amazing today! If that call center employee would have said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t sell pizza,” that might have been appropriate. If the employee would have said, “We don’t sell pizza, and it’s not my job to help you,” that would have been a terrible setback in their quest to be the best company in customer service. However, what the employee did instead will generate return business over and over again because they gave their customer such a wonderful experience! Plus, that attitude is contagious within the community and culture at Zappos! Just as this positive experience was used as an example of what to do, many of the Zappos employees will continue to do the same for others. That is the power of positive peer pressure! You should be held accountable at work for helping things along in the right direction. That’s the power and efficiency of a highly functioning team – each member of the team holds the others accountable for their best performance. It’s expected, it’s competitive in a friendly way, and it’s the way all great and successful teams operate.

4) Do what’s right for you and simultaneously for the group. It might sound selfish to do what is right. People may even call you self-righteous or condescending if you try to correct them in an environment where the high-functioning team mentality is not already established. However, if you don’t start to call each other out on poor practices, and celebrate each others’ good practices, then your business culture may never find itself in the high-functioning team category. Doing what’s right is not only good for you, it’s good for the whole team! When everyone is challenging one another in a friendly, competitive way, people want to perform. They want to come to work in the morning. They have more fun at work. Productivity increases exponentially and the effort seems to be less because more people are carrying the weight. Trust increases because people know that you will do what you say, and you know that the others will come through for you. It becomes a selfishly unselfish work environment for everyone and business gets done!

This article is only one man’s ramblings from experience, but I think it will ring true for others as well.


A New List (2014): The top 10 Business Schools in the US (made by USA Today)

Most people consider West Point an Ivy League equivalent with its top notch engineering-based education. But the leaders that are being generated from the school for the Army have the same qualities that make good corporate employees, CEOs, and even Entrepreneurs in 2014. At West Point the Cadets are taught to make a difference in the world even past their Army committment, and they have proven that they have kept that promise over and over again. From companies like Mercedes-Benz, Johnson & Johnson, EMCOR and the Thayer Leader Development Group, businesses with West Point graduates at the helm have been growing strong. This has proven that the skills learned at the Academy (and in the Army) can and do translate directly to the business world. Even the way good companies like these make decisions, use resources, and plan for the future are based in the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) which many great businesses have been using for years under different names. It’s about time that the teachings at West Point of value-based leadership have finally been recognized as pertinent to the business world.

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The Best Advice I’ve Seen for Married Couples Working Together

There isn’t very much that I think my wife and I share a passion for more than our children (family), each other, food, travel, and music. But in many ways I am very different from her because I will take educated risks, while she plays it safe. I don’t care about money very much, she fears losing out on money making opportunities. And I definitely don’t share her enthusiasm for shopping, while she doesn’t share my passion for leadership and business.

But some people have to go to work together as couples (perhaps there are not many jobs in a town or their business is what puts food on the table), and others WANT to work together.

Here is an article from a friend who truly enjoys working with her husband – ENJOY!!

Go to Article: Pinnacle Management Group – Rebecca Lacy.

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A Perfect Example of Positive Leadership from a New Friend in Australia

I spoke with a gentleman from Australia this evening (his morning) whose Father had served in Vietnam in the grand tradition of the Australian-American tried and true military relationship. And he reached out to me to try to take a course at West Point (at my day job) because he is enrolled in Sydney University for his MBA and he wanted to expand his leadership horizons. He also works at a very large international corporation which has also endorsed his travel to the US to pursue this leader development opportunity because of his position as the head of a sales team. His resume is impressive for a young man, and his pursuit of higher education is admirable – but my astonishment is in his focus on leadership. 

He has read countless volumes of books on different wartime engagements, battles, and biographies. He rattled off some names of the ones that impressed him the most – Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton (all West Pointers by the way). And he said, “I just kept seeing West Point show up over and over again, and I am so happy to have the opportunity – even as a civilian – to be able to benefit from training that will help me develop as a ‘leader of character’. It is just who I am, and I don’t mind traveling around the world to get this kind of training at all!” 

He said he was the youngest of three (two older sisters) and one of his sisters was mentally handicapped. It is her struggle to do everything in life (even the basics like speaking and communicating) that allowed him to realize at the age of eleven years, “People do not all have the same opportunity to succeed in life, and those of us who have the ability also have the responsibility to try our best to use our talents for the good of the rest of the population…and give back to those who cannot do what we can.” My reaction: What an inspiring view of the world. 

It isn’t enough to be doing what I am truly great at, but I am humbled to be able to speak to this caliber of human being! Thank you for all who read these posts because I know I am “preaching to the choir” when I share these articles and thoughts, but I have to share these truly amazing moments when I find them.


How Managers Keep Employees From Jumping Ship

This is a very good back-to-basics article about keeping employees engaged. I thought these were basic to everyone until I worked at a few places outside of the Military and realized that it is not a prerequisite for business owners (even MBA holders) to necessarily think that this is good practice. Too many times, I have run into business owners who think that their employees are just “the help”. The more respect and engagement a person gets, the better they will do for the company, and the less they will cost the company (laziness equals loss of business, even if it can’t be directly quantified). Retention of a good employee is the most cost effective use of your business’s time and money (no matter how large or small).

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